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How Many Species of Animal Are There?

Earthworms are a type of invertebrate.
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There are about 1,250,000 identified species of animal. This includes 1,190,200 invertebrates, among them 950,000 insects, 70,000 mollusks, 40,000 crustaceans, and 130,200 others. There are about 58,800 identified vertebrates, including 29,300 fish, 5,743 amphibians, 8,240 reptiles, 9,800 birds, and 5,416 mammals. As a comparison, almost 300,000 plant species are known.

Importantly, the numbers above do not account for species that have not yet been captured or described scientifically. Scientists estimate there may be as many as 10 - 30 million unidentified insect species, many of them living in the rainforest, and up to 1 million mite species. Mites are small arthropods, a group of animals related to, but not the same as, insects.

It is clear that modern science is not aware of all the species on the planet. When Carl Linnaeus and his pupils set out to record all the species they could in the mid-18th century, they found just over 15,000 species of animal. Today, estimates of the total number range from 2 to 30 million. In addition to all the animals, there are between 10 million and 1 billion species of bacteria and archaea. What's more, the number of species today is thought to represent only 1% of all species that have ever lived, since mass extinctions in the past have likely killed off as many as 97% of all species.

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Unfortunately, the number of species of animal on Earth today are dropping. An event known as the Holocene extinction event is underway, caused by humans. When humans initially spread across the world, many species went extinct, including all of the Pleistocene megafuna, which were wiped out entirely by 9,000 years ago. These include the mammoth, mastodon, auroch, saber-toothed tiger, cave bear, short-faced bear, dire wolf, camelops, wooly rhinoceros, giant lizards, many marsupials, and others. Today, with booming human populations, global warming, and widespread deforestation and poaching, the destruction of thousands of species is continuing.

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Discuss this Article

anon319371
Post 11

Do you mean to say that the same God who fed 5000 men with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish couldn't possibly bend the rules of science?

Christians believe in plenty of miracles. We never claimed they could be explained by science. If they could, they would not be miracles. I was so caught up in the miracle of God causing a flood to cover the entire earth at his command, I overlooked the underlying miracle of the koala, kangaroo, and polar bear placement. Thanks for the new perspective and inspiration. God bless.

anon142504
Post 8

Yeah, this is one of those problems with Noah. Believers say, do not try to comprehend it, you have to believe!

whatever nonsense it may sound.

anon121744
Post 6

Very interesting facts. It makes one wonder how Noah got all these species, including polar bears from the Arctic, penguins from the Antarctic, kangaroos and koalas from Australia etc. on board; and how he returned them to their native environments. And this doesn't include the dinosaurs, that fundamentalists claim were also around at that time!

FirstViolin
Post 5

That's crazy how few species of mammals there are compared to other categories of species. It makes you think about how rare animals with only a few species, like pandas, are (there's only two species of pandas).

To me, that makes helping endangered species even more important -- we need to do all we can to prevent the extinction of species.

TunaLine
Post 4

Out of that, how many species of animals are endangered, I wonder?

rallenwriter
Post 3

Wow, nice article. I had been looking all over for some definitive answers for a project on animal species that I'm trying to put together for my second graders. (I'm calling it "A to Z Animals").

This was very helpful, thank you.

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